Category Archives: Devotional

A CHRISTIANS 3 ENEMIES

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enemy image

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
— James 1:14-15
I don’t know why people become perplexed as to why they fall into sin when they hang around places where they are vulnerable. Let’s say that someone is struggling with drinking and then suddenly falls off the wagon, so to speak. So a friend asks, “Where were you?”

“Well, I was at a bar.”

“Why would you go hang out in a bar when you have a problem with this?”

“Well, they have a nice big-screen TV. I really like to watch the game there, and they also have the best chicken wings ever.”

People will put themselves in a place of vulnerability and then are shocked when they fall.

That is how it started for Eve when she ate from the only tree that God had forbidden. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, listening to the wrong voice, which led her to do the wrong thing.

Eve had access to all of the Garden of Eden to discover and enjoy it. But where was she? She was hanging around in the one place God told her to stay away from. Genesis 3:6 tells us, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (NKJV).

As you look at that verse, it is a foundational statement about the origin of all temptation. As Christians, we basically have three enemies that we face on a daily basis: the world, the flesh, and the Devil. The world, with its allure, is the external foe. The flesh, with its evil desires, is the internal foe. The Devil, with his enticements, is the infernal foe.

-Greg Laurie

WHERE ARE YOU?

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hide and seek

Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
— Genesis 3:9
When I play hide-and-seek with my granddaughters, I will show them a new hiding place. Then, when it is my turn to find them, they will go to the place I just showed them.

That is what it’s like when we try to hide from God. In the Garden of Eden, God called out to Adam, “Where are you?” But God knew exactly where Adam was. And He knew exactly what Adam had done. God wasn’t asking Adam this question because He was clueless and looking for information.

By asking “Where are you?” God was saying, in effect, “Well, Adam, how is it going? How did that work out for you—the whole sin thing? Was I right on this, or was I wrong? How are you feeling about it? Is this good? Did I tell you the truth, or did the Devil lie to you?”

God wanted Adam and Eve to confess what they had done so He could set it right, because God cannot forgive a sin that has not been confessed.

The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What does it mean to confess our sin? The word confess used in this verse means “to agree with.”

And what is God’s opinion of sin? He hates it. What else does God think of sin? It offends Him. So we have to see sin that way, stop rationalizing it and justifying it, and start saying, “God, Your opinion of sin is right. I agree with You. I hate it. It was wrong for me to do. I am sorry for it.” Until we come to this conclusion about our sin, it will separate us from God.

-GREG LAURIE

FINISHED

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It-Is-Finished-Logo-620x250

When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
— John 19:30
The cross was the goal of Jesus from the very beginning. His birth was so there would be His death. The incarnation was for our atonement. He was born to die so that we might live. And when He had accomplished the purpose He had come to fulfill, He summed it up with a single word: “finished.”

In the original Greek, it was a common word. Jesus probably used it after He finished a project that He and Joseph might have been working on together in the carpentry shop. Jesus might have turned to Joseph and said, “Finished. Now let’s go have lunch.” It is finished. Mission accomplished. It is done. It is made an end of.

So what was finished? Finished and completed were the horrendous sufferings of Christ. Never again would He experience pain at the hand of wicked men. Never again would He have to bear the sins of the world. Never again would He, even for a moment, be forsaken of God. That was completed. That was taken care of.

Also finished was Satan’s stronghold on humanity. Jesus came to deal a decisive blow against the devil and his demons at the cross of Calvary. Hebrews 2:14 says, “Only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.” This means that you no longer have to be under the power of sin. Because of Jesus’ accomplishment at the cross, finished was the stronghold of Satan on humanity.

And lastly, finished was our salvation. It is completed. It is done. All of our sins were transferred to Jesus when He hung on the cross. His righteousness was transferred to our account.

So Jesus cried out the words, “It is finished!” It was God’s deliberate and well-thought-out plan. It is finished—so rejoice!

ESCAPING THE MESS

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messy

You know what? Sometimes life is just plain hard. It happens in it’s own way, fashion and time. Sure, we can make plans, but just as soon as we do, things like sickness, break-ups, friendship troubles, family issues, and heck, even unexpected bad weather get in the way. They slow us down. They remind us we’re not in control of what happens next.

Isn’t that interesting? At any given point in time, neither you or I can control the way things will play out. If we want any hope at all of escaping the mess we find ourselves in, we really only have one option – to stop trying so hard and start relying on the Lord to take control.

That’s where I get fussy. I mean it sounds easy enough to sit back and trust God – you know, to just “have faith” and know that He holds it all together. I know He does. He’s proven that to me time and time again, but somehow circumstances have a way of wiping that truth from my memory. I try to do things on my own. Sometimes my attempts fail, sometimes they succeed, but you know what’s crazy about that? Even when I do make stuff happen on my own, it doesn’t fulfill me. I’m left exhausted and wanting more. I end up back where I originally began – looking up, searching for some kind of guidance on what to do next.

Who else has been on this ferris wheel towards success? You know, where you keep going, going, going, but never really end up anywhere? If you, like me, have found yourself there, let me encourage you that you’re NOT at the main attraction. God never intended for us to aimlessly live our lives running in circles. He has more for us than that, and I believe He’s waiting for us to jump out of our routines and allow Him to take over our schedules a bit.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” —Jeremiah 29:11

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” —Hebrews 11:1

I don’t know all that God has in store for my life (or yours) but I do know this much for sure – they include good, not evil. They give you a future and a hope. Have confidence in what you can’t see, knowing that your faith is in the One who sees it all. He is our assurance. He will never fail.

 

 

THE PROBLEM WITH COMPLAINING

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stop-complaining

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
— Philippians 2:14-15
A man who decided to join a monastery and become a monk had to take vow of silence. But at the end of each year, he was allowed to appear before the abbot and say two words. After being silent for an entire year, he finally was allowed to speak.

So he said, “Bed’s hard.”

Another year went by, and he appeared before the abbot again.

“What would you like to say?” the abbot asked him.

“Food’s cold,” the man answered.

Another year went by, and the man again appeared before the abbot. As before, the abbot asked him, “What do you want to say?”

“I quit,” he told him.

“It is no wonder!” the abbot replied. “All you have done is complain since you got here!”

The Bible tells us, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people” (Philippians 2:14–15).

Complaining and bickering hinder us in following Jesus. There are times when we have to confront one another, and it is never pleasant. But if you enjoy confrontation, then something is wrong. Some people just want to fight. They are always upset with someone or something. The problem with people like this is they can’t keep it to themselves. They are always stirring up others. That is not the way to live as a Christian.

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that “Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” We can choose to believe the best of others. Of course, we can’t see another person’s heart. But what a difference it would make if we started blessing others instead of blasting them.

-Greg Laurie

WORK IT OUT

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work it out

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
— Philippians 2:12
During the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, people came to California from all around the world because they had heard there was “gold in them thar hills.” Apparently some people imagined they would arrive and find chunks of gold just lying around in the streets. Well, there was a lot of gold in California back then, but people quickly discovered that the gold wasn’t as plentiful as they’d hoped. Yes, a lot of gold was in the mines, but it was necessary to work hard and stay with it in order to find that mother lode.

This is the idea the apostle Paul was conveying to the saints in Philippi when he wrote, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). We need to work out what God has worked in. We need to discover what God has done for us.

However, we don’t work for our salvation; we work it out. Salvation is a gift from God. We are told in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” So we don’t work for it; we work it out.

Remember, Paul was directing this statement to believers. The idea of working out one’s salvation is referring to living out one’s faith—carrying it out correctly. In fact, the term work out carries the meaning of working to full completion. So we need to carry it to the goal.

As believers, the work of God is in our hearts, but we need to live it out. Like the gold seekers in California’s early days, we need to mine it. That means carrying to the goal and fully completing our own salvation with fear and trembling.

-Greg Laurie

WHEN YOU’RE TOO BUSY TO CONNECT WITH GOD

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BUSY

Busy. It’s a word many of us use most of the time—we’re too busy, so busy, very busy, or just plain busy. We’ve got work to do, children to raise, meetings to get to, appointments to keep, friends to connect with, spouses to love.

So how to we stay connected to God even when our lives swirl around us at a rapid pace? How do we keep Him central in our hearts and minds while we live our very busy lives? Here are a few ideas for staying close to Jesus even when life gets crazy:

Start with Scripture.
My goal is to read the Bible every day—early in the day—so that everything else I do is seen through the Biblical lens of reality. Reading the Bible is one thing that keeps me grounded in truth and connected to God. I have found, for me, that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day—and I usually find that I am kinder in my responses to other people and more gracious with myself.

And yet, even though I know how important it is for me to read the Word in order to stay close to God, it is surprising to me that something so simple can be so difficult to do on a consistent basis. So get creative if you need to. Do you commute to work? If you’re driving, listen to the Bible on audio. If you’re sitting on a train or on a subway, read the Bible on your phone or carry a pocket version of the Bible with you.

Listen to Truth.
There are a lot of voices swirling around us every day—voices that tell us we aren’t good enough, that we have to find love for ourselves, and that we need to be more attractive and make more money. If I listen to those voices too long, I get sucked into those lies. So I seek to fill my head with music and words that keep me focused on God throughout the day.

If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance that you have access to an incredible amount of Christ-centered media options. Podcasts that point me back to Jesus in the midst of a crazy world, music that focuses my attention on Him and sermons that keep my mind grounded in truth—these are the types of things I try to fill gaps of free time with. They help me remember that in Christ, I am loved and that I have all that I need—things I constantly need to hear.

Pray Throughout the Day.
It is important to have regular time set aside to pray, but as in any relationship, ongoing communication is important. I often pray in shorter bursts while I’m driving, or while I’m walking across campus to my classroom, or while I’m picking up toys in the house.

I had a professor in college who prayed for a particular person each time he turned on a light switch, and I love that idea of partnering normal, daily actions with intentional prayer. It keeps our hearts in conversation with God and invites Him into the normalness of our lives—which is right where He already is.

Pause When You Feel Overwhelmed.
In the book of Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

But it’s difficult for me to receive God’s peace if I’m so busy that I don’t make time to stop, even briefly, and ask for His help. And so this whole idea of pausing is an important one for me. There are often multiple times each day where I can start to feel overwhelmed, anxious or concerned—usually about things that are outside of my control. If I actually take time to pause and turn to God when these moments come, rather than letting fear or anxiety overtake me, I find that He is always offering me his peace, which is bigger than any fear.

I also have a couple of friends who I text if I’m feeling overwhelmed—I ask for their prayer and sometimes for their advice. What I’ve learned is that the time it takes me to pause and pray and ask for help is always shorter than the time it takes me to be worried about something for another five minutes—or five days!

Invest in Relationships That Help You Love Jesus.
In order to live any life—let alone a busy life—that still has God at the center, I need people who are close to me to help me stay focused on Him. That doesn’t mean that all of our friends need to be Christians—far from it. It does mean, however, that we should aim to have a few deep friendships that flow out of a common love for Christ.

These are the friends in my life who challenge me when I’m living in a way that doesn’t line up with what I say I believe. These are the friends who offer to pray with and for me when life feels out of control. And these are the friends who bring me food when my kid is sick and bring me coffee when I’m too tired to make it for myself.

These are the friends who show me how Jesus loves me even when I don’t feel lovable—and they point me back to who God is and the truth that living with Him at the center is worth everything.
Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/when-youre-too-busy-connect-god#asakfh4sqzoERqlg.99

THE CHRISTIANS LIFE PURPOSE

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purpose

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
— Romans 14:17
Years ago during a visit with Billy and Ruth Graham, I noticed while we were outside that their dog was continuously going around in circles.

“What’s wrong with this dog?” I asked them.

“He’s chasing his tail,” they told me.

I had heard about dogs chasing their tails, but I had never actually seen one do it before.

Like that dog, some people are effectively chasing their tails in life. They are chasing after happiness. But the best way to not be happy is by trying to be happy.

Our purpose in life as Christians is to know God and bring Him glory. If you will do that with your life, if you will get up every morning and say to yourself, “I want to know God, and I want to bring Him glory,” then you will find the happiness that has eluded you. You will find the satisfaction you have always wanted by having your priorities in order.

Anything short of this ultimately will disappoint, because true and lasting happiness never will be found in the things this world tells us to look for.

The Bible offers something better than happiness, and that is joy. Happiness largely depends on good things happening. When things are going reasonably well, we are happy. If things aren’t going so well, we are not happy. But we can have joy despite our circumstances.

The problem with happiness is that it’s generally derived from accomplishments, accumulation, and, to some degree, through escape. The trouble with that is we won’t always be able to accomplish something or escape somewhere. And the things we have accumulated will go out of style, break, get lost, or may be stolen.

If we live for happiness, we’ll never find it. We’ll be like that dog, constantly chasing his tail.

-Greg Laurie

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU MESS UP

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mess up

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
— Romans 5:21
There is a game I like to play with my granddaughters that I call Squiggles. I will tell them, “Just put down anything you want on a piece of paper. Make any line—just a little drawing. I don’t want it to be anything.”

So they will draw some crazy little lines. Then I will take their squiggles, their lines on paper with no rhyme or reason, and I will turn them into something. Usually it’s a funny face or a character.

In a much greater way, God can do the same for you. Maybe you have messed up. Maybe you have made a mistake and have done a wrong thing. Guess what? We serve the God of second chances. So you can come to Him and say, “Lord, I have really messed up. Can you help?”

His answer is yes. God will come and redeem the mistakes we have made.
Even Christians can wander away from the Lord. Even Christians can make bad decisions and do really bad things. We are effectively capable of doing anything, even as followers of Jesus, because we still have free wills and old natures. However, if you are a true Christian, even when you have blown it or gone astray, you always will come home again.

Hopefully you will learn from your mistakes. Hopefully you will not go and repeat them again. Hopefully you can fail forward, which means learning from your mistakes, determining to live a more godly life, and helping others not to fall in the same area.

The good news is that God can forgive you and give you a second chance. He will complete the work that He has begun in you (see Philippians 1:6). So even if you have messed up, God still can turn it around.

-Greg Laurie